Sleipnir’s Footprint – Asbyrgi, Iceland

Iceland is definitely the land of canyons and waterfalls. Most of the time they are together to create a dramatic landscape, but in the case of Asbyrgi, the Shelter of the Gods, it is just the canyon that creates the unique formation. Rising out of the tree covered area are two foreboding cliffs that together create a horseshoe. There is the large cliff that curves around a smaller one. 

The story behind this formation is that Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir once planted one of its giant hooves at this spot. For this reason, there are two of these amazing cliffs and a canyon there for anybody is Iceland to explore. And this is a great place to explore.

First off, there is a great camping facility that can be found there, so people can take a couple of days to explore the region completely if they want to. The facility takes in the camper vans, and tents, has showers, and clean bathrooms, sports WiFi, and even has laundry facilities for those who are running out of clean clothes on their long voyage across Iceland.

There are also three great hikes for different skills levels that should please anybody. The easiest one travels on the floor of the canyon and takes anywhere between a half an hour to an hour depending on how long you want to enjoy the duck pond that can be found at the end of the trail. The second longest one takes you on top of the small rocky outcropping in the center of the horseshoe. It will take you to the top of this outcropping and give you some amazing views. It is easier to make it to the top than you would think as well because there is a path that will take you up there without any problem. The longest hike will do the same thing, but it follows the path of the outer cliff and is a lot longer. I did not do this hike, but I was told that it takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours to accomplish and it will return you back from where you started.

Asbyrgi is not on everybody’s list of places to visit on a trip to Iceland, but if you find yourself in the area, it is worth the stop. It might even be worth an overnight stay, giving you more than enough time to explore all of the nooks and crannies of this unique geological feature. It is one of those quiet places in Iceland that surprised me that more people did not travel to, but I was really happy that I made the time to get out there. You should make it a part of your itinerary as well.

The Icelandic Lagoon for Everybody – Jokulsarlon, Iceland

I have been told that Iceland was on track for breaking record this year for tourism. A lot of that was due to the fact that a lot of people have planned trips to Iceland for the last couple of years, and have had to cancel due to Covid. Now that restrictions have eased up, all of those planned trips that never happened are being cashed in, and more people are flocking to Iceland ever than before. With that in mind, there have been a couple of places where I have felt like I could have done with a few less people, but it never felt overwhelming like it has in other places in Europe.

This was until I made it out to Jokulsarlon, a lagoon in the southeast portion of the island that is fed by a connecting glacier. It is a four to five hour drive from Reykavik, and also a central part of the Ring Road. Because of both of these conditions, and the unique nature of the way to experience this lagoon, it is a common destination for anybody that makes it out to Iceland. This is the reason that I felt in the midst of tourist season for the first time since I have been out here.

That is not to say that it is not worth the visit. Here is this really cool geological feature that includes a huge glacier, icebergs, and seals. There is a lot to see out here, and there are many different ways to experience it. You can book a duck boat that will load up a large group of people at the parking lot and then drive them out on to the lagoon. If you are looking for a smaller crowd, and a little more excitement, you can book a Zodiac boat that can get you a little closer to the icebergs and wildlife even though you are still only out on the water for an hour at a time. There are also kayak tours if you wish to add a little bit of a workout to your adventure, and also get away from the crowds a little bit more. There is also a trail that you can hike around the lagoon if you wish to make the experience an independent one.

Basically, there is a way for everybody to enjoy the nature that is out here. Whether you are more adventuresome and want to hike the lagoon or kayak it, or you would rather take a more leisurely way to explore the icebergs by taking a duck or zodiac boat, there is a way for them to get you out there. The bonus for this is that it is accessible to anybody but because of that everybody wants to come down here to check it. Don’t let that deter you though because it is still worth the trip out there, and you will see a lot no matter how you chose to enjoy it.

Kayaking with Icebergs – Ice Guides – Heinabergslon, Iceland

Kayaking is easily my favorite of all water sports. It does take a little technical skill, but it is easy to master, and it works on almost any body of water. I have been out on the Pacific Ocean exploring small islands out outside of Ketchakan, Alaska, the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea leaving the bay of Dubrovnik before it became King’s Landing, and a canal in Tokyo letting the gentle leaves of the cherry blossoms fall on me during the Sakura Festivals. Except for extreme whitewater, I felt I had experienced every way there is to go out on a kayak, but that was until I wound my way up to Iceland, and hooked up with the Ice Guides as they took me out on an isolated lagoon, Heinabergslon, at the base of a calving glacier.

I would like to start by saying that Ice Guides are not aware that I am writing a review on my blog about their services. Rarely do I make that disclaimer, but I enjoyed my time so much with them that I felt that I should not only write about the experience, but also let others know that this small company is worth looking into if you happen to make your way out to the southeast part of Iceland. They have access to this amazing lagoon, and the guides are experienced, knowledgable about not icebergs, but the geology of Iceland, and personable and fun as well. This company is worth connecting up with, and you won’t regret the experience.

It started off with an early morning to make it to our 8:50 time. We had stayed the night before at a campsite only twenty minutes away and we did not bother taking a shower because we knew we were going to get a little bit of a workout. I started to get a little nervous when they had us slip into these elaborate wetsuits. I have never flipped a kayak, and though I knew I would want to stay warm while kayaking next to a glacier, I was not really worried about falling in. Our guide wanted us to be sure that we were still safe anyway, and looking back, I am glad that he did. The wetsuit kept us not only dry, but warm as well.

He also took some time to explain how to paddle on the lagoon. At first, I was insulted by this because how different could it be kayaking in Thailand. As soon as he started to explain himself, I started to see why this quick demonstration was necessary. We would be kayaking through icebergs, and though they look small from above the water, they actually are huge. In this lagoon, they melt from the top which creates these hidden ice shelves right below the water that you can get stuck on, and if you do not know how to navigate yourself off of the ice, you can easily flip your kayak and find yourself in very cold water. Another reason that I was happy that I was wearing that extremely large wetsuit.

After all of this, we set off on our two and a half hour tour of the bay, and it was a great way of getting close to these icebergs. We were able to wind our ways through narrow passageways to find ourselves in this ever changing landscape f unimaginable ice sculptures. The display of colors was maybe my favorite part of the journey. I have always enjoyed the intensity of the deep blue that can only be found from the ice of glaciers, but to get right next to it and marvel at how blue it actually was without having to disturb the landscape with motor or gas just made me feel like the first explorers ever to discover an iceberg and how they must have felt to have seen it.

I did not think that this experience could get any better, but that was until he had us pull up on to an iceberg that they had nicknamed Africa because it was the oldest iceberg in the lagoon. We were given crampons, and then allowed to trek over the iceberg until we reached its peak so we could look over the whole lagoon. Our guide pointed out certain features such as deep holes of ice water, and the formation of ash cones while explaining how the whole lagoon was formed in the first place with a combination of volcanoes and glaciers. It was the perfect time to get away from the kayak for a bit so we could stretch our legs, and the perfect activity to do it with.

It was a great way to spend a morning, and it has easily been my favorite experience in Iceland so far. I highly recommend doing it as well, but keep in mind that due to conditions, which are always unpredictable in Iceland, they may have to cancel a trip at the last moment. But if you find yourself out this way, it will easily be one of the highlights of your trip, and one you won’t want to skip out on.

If you would like to book a tour with Ice Guides please check out their website at: https://www.iceguide.is/

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Jordan is the hidden gem in the Middle East. Before I came out here to live, I did not know about many of the amazing features that were held in its small borders. I have visited a couple of them, and there are many more that I will visit while I am living here, but they will have to be pretty impressive to beat out the experience I had at Wadi Rum.

It is not a hard place to find. Wadi Rum is located three and a half hours south from Amman, and if you get up early in the morning you can squeeze in a whole day of excitement. But this is not something that I would do. The experience is so much better if you book a stay with the Bedouins who live on this UNESCO World Heritage sight because you can make the most out of a couple of days, and get to experience what it is like to live the lifestyle of a Bedouin, if only for a little while.

I had booked my stay with Nomad Tour Group, and they kept my group pretty busy while I was down there. Despite this fact, they also supplied me with everything I needed, transportation around the desert, a warm tent to stay in on the cold nights down there, and some of the best food I have ever eaten on a tour group. It made for a memorable trip to a unique location.

This sights I saw did not only consist of seeing incredible formations made out of sandstone, but also a bunch of examples of the other inhabitants of the desert. There were, of course, many lizards that I had come across, and a few birds, but it was a lot of fun when I came across random camels wandering around the desert. I was told by my tour guide that they were owned by another Bedouin which it made it easy to get out and feed them, but it was still fun to get close to one of these beasts for the first time in my life.

It is also amazing to see what survives out in this harsh environment. I went down in late November, and I would highly recommend trying to make it down in the fall or if not then, the spring. Both of them will give you temperate weather, but the fall is right before the rainy season, so you won’t be in danger of getting washed out. Despite the dry climate, I still was able to come across a couple of amazing trees, and saw some desert flowers poking out of the sand in a couple of spots where I never thought life would have existed in the first place.

There is also some amazing rock formations that you will be taken to. If you get the right guide, they will get you to these places before the tours really start to pile in, so it will make you feel like you have the place to yourself.

And if the rock formations are not enough for you, there are also places where you can make your own in a crazy version of Jenga. At one time, we were taken to a field filled with a bunch of cairns that had been made over the years, and it was fun to find the right rocks to try and make your own creations. This is one that I spent a little time one, but I liked the way that I got everything to balance precariously on top of each other.

Overall, it is a must stop place if anyone ever travels out to Jordan. The sights are too many to count, and everywhere you look, you want to take another picture. I spent three days, and two nights down there, and I felt like I got a good feel for what it has to offer. If you make it here, you need to definitely mark this as one of the spots that you will want to stop at on your visit.

A Walk Down the Metolius River – Central Oregon

Summer has arrived in Central Oregon. The last couple of days have been in the 80s, and it has been the perfect time to get out of the house and see what the area has to offer. There are many places to choose from, and one that is frequented by many people who come this is way is Camp Sherman. It is a campground located on the Metolius River that offers tent sites, RV locations, and the option of renting a cabin for the ones who are not as adventurous.

During the summer months, the campgrounds, and cabins are usually packed with visitors because of the various activities that this part of Oregon has to offer. There are some recreation centers, but from what I am told, they do not get as much use as the river itself. It is here where you can find fly fishing, hiking, either along the river or up the nearby Black Butte, and just general fun from camping. The tall trees and cool water running down the river keeps the place relatively cool even on the hottest of summer days which makes it the perfect mountain destination.

For those of you who like to dip into civilization a little bit, there are a couple of places along the river that you can visit. There is the general store where you can pick up your basic supplies, and if you are hungry, they do have a counter where you can pick up a really good sandwich or burger with a lot of vegetarian options available. If you want more of the sit down restaurant experience, there is Hola, a Mexican restaurant that will serve you some spicy delights as well as margaritas. I have never been to this one, but it is the same Hola restaurant that can be found in nearby Bend, and if the food is the same, it is worth the visit.

If you don’t mind driving, you are only a twenty minute drive to Sisters, a charming town that will make you feel like you have gone back to the old west. It offers more restaurants and shops to browse through. But if you are looking for something a little more educational, there is the fish hatchery as well. You can see where many of the lakes and rivers of Central Oregon get its fish.

But the greatest attraction out here is the head waters of the Metolius River. This river is unique to Central Oregon because its main source of water does not come from snow melt from the surrounding peaks. The river instead spring out of the ground further upstream and you can go up there to wander around a series of paths to see how this imposing force of nature is formed.

Camp Sherman is a great place to stay at if you are looking for a camping spot in Central Oregon, but it also offers a great day retreat as well, the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll along the Metolius River to see some beautiful sights.

In a Valley in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

I woke up yesterday morning in the last area I am going to explore on this trip to Europe and it easily became my favorite. This is nothing to the holiday fun I had in the various German cities I visited or the cultural exploration I went on in Salzburg, but it was because of the dramatic landscape of the Swiss Alps is hard to beat.

This little town is none other than Lauterbrunnen, a ski town that finds itself tucked away in a valley between the impressive rocky peaks of the Bernese mountains of the Alps. It is often referred to the people who live here as the land of 72 waterfalls, and there are two with walking distance from the train station that will drop you off in this town.

Though these waterfalls are impressive to see, it is impossible to get close to them this time of the year because the paths leading up to them are closed down due to the dangers of winter weather. It does not mean that it is not a beautiful valley to take a hike through, and no matter which way I looked, there was always something to take a picture of. Many people come up here in throughout the year to enjoy the scenery, and to go biking, skiing, sledding, or paragliding. It is nature’s playground, and the sleepy town of Lauterbrunnen lives in harmony with this fact.

Tourism is basically the main industry out here, but that does not stop people from earning a living farming, ranching, and making homemade cheeses and sausages. The local brands are always for sale in the grocery stores, but there are many farm fronts that will sell these delicacies as well. My favorite was the farm house that had a vending machine in front of its house with hunks of cheese and sausage available along with tiny bottles of homemade wine.

Overall, it is a beautiful part of the world, and I am happy to have landed here for the last part of my Winter Break. Lauterbrunnen is in the center of a bunch of small mountains towns that all hold their own special charm which I am going to be able to explore over the next few days, and I am excited to see each and every one of them.

Camping – The Move Day 10 – 12

There are many pass-times that the state of Colorado has to offer from seeing concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater, to catching a game at one of the many sporting events, from skiing at one of the world renowned resorts, to hiking up one of the over fifty 14ers, but the one that I think symbolizes the fun that can be had in the state the most is camping. It is when I hang out in the mountains with my favorite friends and family that supplies me with the greatest memories of this part of the United States. There are so many great locations that it is hard to just pick one that embodies what it means to go camping. You can go to some of the national parks, such as Rocky Mountain or the Great Sand Dunes; you can find spots within the miles of national forrest, such as the Poudre River or Eleven Mile Canyon; or you can head to one of the many state parks, such as Golden Gate Park, or Mueller State Park.

I have camped in many different locations during my years living in Colorado, and each one of them has their own special charm, but one of the places I enjoy camping at is Mueller State Park outside of Divide, Colorado. It is easy to find. You just take Highway 24 out of Colorado Springs until you reach Divide and then you take a left on Highway 67 for six miles and it will be on your right hand side. I do recommend looking ahead and reserving a campsite before you go especially during the summer. I would recommend doing this with any place you camp at during the summer. We had made reservations way back in February, and they were already filling up at that time.

The campsites are very comfortable there and far enough away from other campsite so it does not feel like you are camping on to of another person. There are plenty of site that accommodate campers, but most of the people that we saw there were just tenting it. The weather was perfect for this as well. Mueller State Park sits over 9,000 feet above sea level so it will always be a little cooler there than Colorado Springs or Denver. It is the perfect way to escape the heat of the summer. Each site comes with a table, and a grill over a fire pit, and there is a bathroom facility that is central to the campgrounds that offers laundry options, and showers. Even though you find yourself camping, the comforts of home are within walking distance, and you will never feel like you are really roughing it.

The nicest thing about camping here is that you are close to many fun things to do. There is a wolf sanctuary close by, as well as a mine that you can explore. There are many places where you can go fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding and of course, hiking.

There are many trails around the park that offer spectacular views, but you do not even need to leave the park to find a place where you can enjoy a nice hike. As soon as you enter the park, the ranger will give you a map to all of the trails that the park has to offer. Some are easier than others, but all of them will take you to an exciting place in the park.

The one that I took while I was out there led me to Cheesman Ranch, an old settlement on the valley floor of this part of Colorado. There were a series of ranch style homes that were left behind when the first people from the east came out to this part of Colorado and decided that they would try their hand at ranching, and the state has done a great job of maintaining the outside of these buildings. The preservation of history makes it feel as if you were a part of this household when you make it to this part of the trail. It is the small things that you notice such as the metal siding used as the roof and the new paint job that makes you know that somebody cares about making sure that this is here for anybody that decides to take this hike.

The insides of the building were a little different, but it is one small step at a time, and it is the small ranch house on the plain surrounded by mountains that make this hike worth it, but that can be said for any hike that is taken in Colorado. There is always some reward at the end of the hike such as a water fall or the beautiful view of the mountains. There are also little treasures along the way as well, whether that is people you meet along the way or being able to see the wildlife, a hike in the mountains is always an adventure.

I have camped all of the world, but there is something about being able to do it in Colorado, and I am glad that I got to experience it while I was out here this summer.

Quandary Peak – Around the World Day 23

Though the world may not know much about it except for the place you go to for skiing, Colorado, does have a tourist season during the summer. The mountains are still a fun place to go to, and there are many things to do in the small towns there. One of the things that many people try to check off of their lists is to summit one of the 58 14ers that the state boasts about. A 14er, is a mountain peak that reaches over 14,000 feet above sea level. It is way above timberline, and the air gets pretty thin up there, so it is quite an accomplishment to make it up one of these mountains, and it is even a bigger challenge if you can do it when you come from sea level before you do it because there is always the danger of altitude sickness that can make the hike a challenge to get over. I wanted to add to the challenge so I decided to take on one of these peaks a day after I arrived from Europe, so I was living in a different time zone and my mind was trying to get over jet lag when I tried this.

It is important to take on one of these peaks early in the morning because Colorado has a tendency to afternoon thunderstorms, and you don’t want to be up on top of a peak without any cover where lightning has a shorter distance to strike the tallest object, you. It also gets pretty crowded on some of the peaks during the day because of the tourists try to tie this into their vacation. Quandary Peak, the mountain I took on, is one of the busier ones. It is only a few miles outside of the popular town of Breckenridge, and it is one of the easier mountains to summit, so this is the one that many people take on. I had gotten there at 5:45 in the morning and it was already packed with people. Even though some people might complain about these crowds, it didn’t bother me much because I had just experienced some of the crowds in Europe and they were nothing like the one I had on this day.

The cool thing about the hike is you can see the summit most of the way up. It is not like some of the other peaks where the top hides behind false summits, disappointing you sometimes when you thought you had made it to the top but in reality you still had a ways to go. It also has a pretty well maintained all the way up to the top as opposed to other mountains where the trail disappears to a field of rocks that can add to the challenge because they are not always secured and you might have to dodge a rock rolling down the hill from someone up above you from time to time.

It is also still had small snow fields near the top even though it was the middle of July. I have been told that these snow fields are small this year because it has been a dry year for Colorado, but it was fun to see snow during this time of the year. I have attempted this mountain at a different time of the year, May, and this spot was covered in snow, and I couldn’t summit because I got caught in the middle of a blizzard when I made it to this point in the hike. But this time, the weather was perfect, and I even wished I had worn shorts because I was getting a little hot when I made it to this point of the hike.

The best part of the hike was when I got to the top. I was able to stand on the edge of a precipice and look out over the Rocky Mountains and could even point out the two other 14ers that I had summited the summer before. I got to get to know my hiking partners a little better, had wonderful conversations with other hikers taking on the challenge from other parts of the world, and earned a sense of accomplishment on a day that I would usually have spent trying to figure out a way to get over jet lag.

It is a great way to spend a day in Colorado, and it is one of the things that made this part of my trip around the world great. It is funny that I had to move away before I attempted to reach the top of these mountains, but it is the way of the world. We don’t really appreciate the things we have in the places we live until we no longer have them at our disposal. That is one of the things that this trip is teaching me. Appreciate everything that I can while I am there to appreciate it.